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Acupuncture Today
March, 2004, Vol. 05, Issue 03
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Acupuncture Poll

By Editorial Staff

The Acupuncture Poll's question for December 2003 was:

"Do you think the AOM profession needs to have a doctoral degree program?"

Results are as follows:

Pie Graph for the March 2004 Acupunture Today Poll.
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- Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark">

These results are based upon 8,961 responses. As this is a voluntary, non-scientific survey, caution should be used in generalizing the results. Here is a sample of the comments made by those who took the survey and how they voted:

Yes: The profession is heading in that direction. Patients, legislators and insurance companies tend to give greater respect to professionals with "doctor" associated with their members. Let's face it: Our society has indoctrinated us to believe that title is important. (Being called) doctor does not mean better care, only better respect from others. This is also important for us to take back some of the momentum from other practitioners with doctoral degrees who are practicing and falsely advertising to the public that they are doctors and they know acupuncture. The move to doctor is not just motivated by our own motives, but also the public's best interest is served by this move as well.

Yes: I have been a student at two acupuncture schools, one East coast, one West coast. Coming out of these schools and into the profession of acupuncture, I see a disturbing trend: practitioners with a lack of focus, lack of training, and lack of capacity to handle the health care needs of their patients. I think this is in part due to the style of training available to students of acupuncture in this country. Acupuncture students get on average a year of clinical internship before they are let loose into the profession. The lucky ones find a senior practitioner who is willing to mentor. Even in China, the typical acupuncture training is seven years. In contrast, Western medical students, when they are finished with medical school, go on to 4-plus years of residency where they are proctored and guided in a purely clinical teaching environment, making their training a minimum eight years. How did acupuncture schools in this country decide that three years is enough?

I encounter too many incompetent acupuncturists, and it is a disservice to patients and the profession. Yes, we need a doctoral degree program. We need more training, if we will ever be truly complementary in the main fabric of healthcare in this country.

No: What's the push behind the doctorate? It appears simply to allow practitioners to put a "Dr." in front of their names. Of course, the folks that are pushing this are arguing for higher educational requirements for everyone but themselves. For example, in California, when practitioners and groups such as CSOMA and CAOMA were seeking to ram through AB 1943 (the bill to increase hours for licensure to 3,200), they made it very clear that existing practitioners should not have to take additional training for practice.

If current educational standards are inadequate for current students to practice safely and effectively when they graduate, then it stands to reason that existing practitioners who were trained under the same standards should go back to school.

Higher requirements should not be mandated unless patients are at risk based on substandard care. To my knowledge, this has not happened in the U.S. The safety record is excellent and patients are quite satisfied with the care provided by master's-trained practitioners.

No: I think the AOM profession needs continuity with its education process and to maintain standards for entry-level practice for all students throughout the United States. The doctoral degree program will confuse and divide the profession and more specifically, the public for whom we serve. We need to continue to educate our clients and medical profession(s) on our education, standards and qualifications.

Yes: The quality of education in acupuncture and Oriental medicine needs to have the same standard as the current biomedical education. It currently does not! A doctoral program is a first step toward this goal.

Yes: We need to strive for parity with chiropractors and medical doctors in America and stake out a piece of the pie. To do this, we need a doctoral program that is clinical in nature, not a "research" program like the ones currently offered. We will remain outside the mainstream with our current degrees. Whether that's where the majority of the profession wants to be is at the core of this debate.

No: The doctoral degree program should have already been included in the program a new AOM student begins. The doctoral degree would generally designate them, and all AOM physicians, semantically as a "doctor," and ethically having completed the highest educational requisites obligated to become a physician. I don't think the AOM profession needs a separate doctoral degree program, since the program seems to only focus on research. Anyway, AOM practitioners are already doctors/ physicians that diagnose and prescribe treatments and herbs to patients. All AOM practitioners should immediately receive a grandfathered and retroactive doctorate diploma, and all students should get the doctoral diploma upon graduation. I wish it would happen once and for all so we can stop dwelling our energies on this.

Further, all AOM physicians that want to research, should maybe have to apply to colleges/ institutions that wish to seek them for special projects. They should have to meet a separate and private criteria that no other practitioner should have to even worry about unless they choose to go into research.

This really needs to be settled positively and immediately, so the profession can focus on the more important issues at hand. We need to fight against the allopathic/pharmaceutical conglomerates that threaten our practicing in the future, and to build a standard of practice that we are all entitled to uphold.

Yes: I think a doctoral program would be beneficial to the profession. However, for those who are already in practice and have graduated with the master's degree, there should be a very abbreviated avenue to get the degree and be grandfathered in with some minimum number of additional credit hours. The additional year-and-a-half that was included in the masters program (beyond the typical two-year master's program) should count toward the doctorate. Thank you for considering my perspective.

No: I feel that master's-level licensure is sufficient for entry level in the field. It seems more beneficial to gain patient experience before continuing to the doctoral level.

No: Considering that no doctoral program in this country has yet to graduate a single doctoral student, this push to begin to force everyone to have a doctoral degree to gain entry into the profession is a total joke.

I also find it outrageous that MDs, chiropractors, dentists, etc. can practice acupuncture after only 100 hours of training in many states! We need to focus on a standard of training for all routes of acupuncture licensure before we start thinking about increasing these levels. Hawaii has the right idea in that no one can practice acupuncture without the proper training. MDs who practice acupuncture with such a substandard level of training often conclude that it is an ineffective modality. More significantly, the public has no protection from these MD acupuncture charlatans.

Let's pull together and raise the requirements for everyone to practice acupuncture to the level that professional acupuncturists currently are held to before over-compensating with this ridiculous idea to make us all "doctors."

Not sure: I don't think the AOM profession needs to have a doctoral degree program, but we should have one as an option for those of us who want to take our education to that higher level.

Yes: The doctoral is one of the many things that separates us from being put at least on the same level as chiropractors, let alone MDs and DOs. In a world where we have yet to obtain the true credibility that we as practitioners are looking for, having the simple "doctor" in front of our names is absolutely necessary - stupid, but necessary. It's an unfortunate side-effect of our society but one we must endure; otherwise the MDs will always have something over us.

Yes: Right now we are the only independent (and in many states primary care) health providers without a doctoral degree. Even physical therapists and pharmacists now have doctoral degrees as entry level. Why not us? Are we saying that Oriental medicine as a discipline is not worthy of doctoral-level study? Do we want to be inferior to Western-trained medical professionals forever? A doctoral degree is essential to the growth and widespread acceptance of our profession.

For more information on the Acupuncture Poll, contact Acupuncture Today at .


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